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Laval Rocket weekend recap & highlights: Chris Terry’s monster weekend not enough for the Rocket

The big guns did their best, but the Rocket dropped a pair of games.

Club de Hockey Canadien Inc

Friday vs. Springfield: 5-1 Loss

The Laval Rocket started their final four games of the year with a matchup against the Springfield Thunderbirds, whose lineup included 2017 first-round pick Owen Tippett. For the Rocket they once again scratched defensive regulars Tom Parisi and Éric Gélinas, in order to get a better look at the handful of tryout players currently on the team. The rotating cast on the top line with Chris Terry and Adam Cracknell continued with Jeremy Grégoire rounding out the trio for the game.

Starting in net was Zach Fucale, while he was backed up by Michael McNiven after Charlie Lindgren started on Wednesday night. For the Thunderbirds, Harri Sateri was between the pipes as two teams battled for nothing more than pride.

Springfield jumped out to the early advantage in shots, holding off a struggling Rocket offence with relative ease. During their heavy offensive zone time the Thunderbirds found the opening goal, coming from their new roster addition. Collecting a puck below the goal line, Tippett spun and fired a backhand toward the net that found its way through Fucale to give Springfield a 1-0 lead.

The Rocket didn’t stay down for long, as Curtis Valk made the unwise decision to take a hooking penalty, and send the Laval power play onto the ice. With the man advantage stars the ice, Chris Terry took a pass from Adam Cracknell and slowly found his spot before ripping home his 30th goal of the year to knot the game up.

The Rocket closed the shot deficit slightly before the period ended, and that also coincided with an uptick in the physicality of the game, as David Broll did what he does best before the horn blew to end the opening 20 minutes.

The second period started quietly for each side, but it was Tippett who helped to provide a spark for the Thunderbirds. The rookie forward ducked in and out of Laval’s defence and tested Fucale a number of times.

After a spirited scrap between Yannick Veilleux and Josh Brown, Springfield broke the tie. Mark Fayne picked up a loose puck and wired a shot through heavy traffic that Fucale never saw to gave his side a 2-1 lead.

Despite getting a chance to tie the game once more on the power play, Laval ended up surrendering more chances short-handed than they generated themselves. After the Rocket power play came to an end, Springfield jumped out to a two-goal lead thanks in part to some slick passing from Tim Erixon. With Alexandre Grenier streaking to the back post of the net, Erixon fired a slap-pass right onto his stick which he directed home with no trouble at all.

With time winding down, a Johnny Austin holding penalty gave Springfield a chance to pull away even more before the intermission, but they could not find another goal before the second period came to a close.

Even though they managed to kill off the rest of Austin’s penalty, the Rocket conceded a goal in the first 90 seconds of the third period. Grenier broke in and fed former IceCap fan-favourite Bobby Farnham to make it a 4-1 game.

Another Laval power play gave the Rocket a chance to cut into the substantial lead, but once again the Thunderbirds got the best scoring chance out of it all, with Ryan Horvat forcing Fucale into a flashy glove save.

After a Broll breakaway chance, and another-power play opportunity, it was Grenier who struck once again just past the halfway point of the period. With his linemates changing and at a disadvantage in the offensive zone, Grenier still managed to fire a rocket into the back of Laval’s net and put the game well out of reach.

Things spiraled from there, with a number of fights and scrums cropping up between whistles as the Rocket took out their frustrations on the Springfield players. With Broll getting a 10-minute misconduct, the Thunderbirds looked to get Grenier his hat-trick goal, but were unable to, making it a 5-1 final at Place Bell.

Three Stars

1. Alexandre Grenier (2 Goals, 1 Assist)

2. Curtis Valk (2 Assists)

3. Harri Sateri (23 Saves, Win)

Saturday vs. Belleville: 3-2 shootout loss

The Rocket didn’t have long to lick their wounds, as they traveled to Belleville for a showdown with the Senators on Saturday night.

After the lopsided defeat on Friday night at home, the Rocket hit the road for one of their last three games of the year. After Zach Fucale was shelled for five goals against the Thunderbirds, it was Charlie Lindgren who started for Laval, while Filip Gustavsson started for the Senators, looking to repeat his performance from his North American debut.

Through the opening 20 minutes, the Swedish netminder did just that, holding off a formidable Laval attack and turning away all 13 shots he faced in the first period.

Despite the strong start to the game, the Rocket still had to kill off an early Yannick Veilleux penalty, and did so with relative ease.

Even with a successful penalty kill, and the momentum on their side, the Rocket surrendered the first goal to Boston Leier with eight minutes gone in the period. A strong pushback after the goal didn’t yield a tying goal before the horn went, sending Laval to the locker room down a goal.

The middle frame didn’t hold many kind tidings for the Rocket either, as the physical play picked up and the Senators began to find their legs. A double roughing minor to Andrew Sturtz sent the Rocket back to the power play just 92 seconds into the period, and despite a few good looks, the Senators dispatched the man advantage without giving up a goal.

Much like the first period, the Senators made Laval pay for failing to capitalize on their chances. Maxime Lajoie let a shot rip from the point, and the puck pinballed off a Rocket player and past Lindgren for a two-goal lead. Another late power play for the Rocket yielded nothing for Laval as Gustavsson continued to flummox the Laval side.

The third period finally yielded a break for a Rocket team that was beginning to pull away from Belleville on the shot counter. After ringing a shot off the crossbar in the second period, Chris Terry found the back of the net, in major part thanks to the blue-line play of Matt Taormina. The veteran defender collected a pass from Adam Cracknell and rifled a shot on net, and Terry displayed some soft hands in tipping it home for his 31st of the year.

It didn’t take long for Terry to strike again. Just under three minutes later, Cracknell won a faceoff clean to Terry, and the AHL’s scoring leader sniped home his 32nd goal of the season, tying the league leader, Valentin Zykov.

Both Jack Rodewald and Jordan Boucher clanged shots off the iron before the period was over, but neither puck bounced toward the net, and the two teams headed to overtime.

The overtime period was a back-and-forth, high-event affair as the Senators caught a tired group of Rocket players on the ice, but Rodewald and Nick Paul were unable to beat Lindgren. At the other end of the ice, the Rocket’s Tye Felhaber nearly pulled off the “Forsberg” move in close on Gustavsson, but the puck trickled just wide.

In the shootout it was Rodewald becoming a thorn in the side of the Rocket one more time. After the initial four shooters for each side missed, and Felhaber didn’t convert on his chance, it was Rodewald who ended it with a simple deke and finish on Lindgren’s team.

For the Rocket, their season will come to a close next weekend when they square off with the AHL’s best side, the Toronto Marlies, in a two-game series. The only things that the Rocket are truly playing for are Chris Terry’s run at the scoring title (which he leads by three points after last night), and Matt Taormina trying to lead the AHL in assists, trailing the leader by just one helper.

Three Stars

1. Jack Rodewald (Shootout Winner)

2. Filip Gustavsson (43 Saves, Win)

3. Maxime Lajoie (1 Goal)